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Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Town Hall Meeting Draws Big Crowd

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Just got back from the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Town Hall Meeting at the Miami Science Museum, where close to 300 people showed up to voice their dissatisfaction with Mayor Alvarez's proposed budget cuts of $11.168 million in public arts funding.

The 240-seat auditorium was completely filled and patrons were standing along all the walls and out the two doors, peeking in. In short, it was a solid initial show of support for the arts in Miami, which are legitimately threatened by the cuts the county is proposing.

In short, grants to more than 400 non-profit cultural organizations will be eliminated, plus ten entire grant programs and four Fellowship and Professional Development programs for artists. Basically, pick any cultural event you've been to in the past year, and chances are it might have been the last time you went there. That is, if the proposed cuts are approved by the County Commission.

The meeting was led by MDCA councilman Adolfo Henriques, Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs Michael Spring, and Chairman of the County Commission Dennis Moss, who pledged his support to keep the proposed cuts from being approved by the County Commission.

"You don't have to convince me," Moss said. "We have to convince six of the other [thirteen] commissioners."

Moss advised displaying support by contacting comissioners individually and by showing up to the September 3 and September 17 public budget hearings, both of which will be commence at 5:01 p.m. at the County Commission Chamber (111 NW 1st St., 2nd Floor, Miami).

Most of the crowd was composed of local arts leaders: Joseph Adler, Director of GableStage; Beth Boone, director of the Miami Light Project; Terry Riley, director of the Miami Art Museum; and Robert Heuer, CEO of Florida Grand Opera, to name a few. Besides relating personal anecdotes about how the funding cuts would devastate their particular organizations, speakers also expressed equal amounts confusion and dissatisfaction with the laws that stipulate that tourist tax dollars go overwhelmingly to capital projects, i.e. the new Florida Marlins stadium.

That inquiry was resoundly squashed by Henriques, councilman Jorge Lopez, and by Moss himself, who strongly suggested that at the public hearings, supporters should focus on the value of their own programs, not on pointing fingers at the stadium.

"I'm just giving you advice," he said, which I interpreted as a pretty clear threat, i.e. "Bitch about the stadium and your efforts to save your non-profits will go nowhere." However you feel about the stadium deal--and we here at the New Times, baseball lovers that we are, have not been shy about our opinion that it was a big mistake--the deal is done. No one is going to reverse it. Little Davey Sampson Samson, propeller hat and all, was victorious. So it's probably not a good idea to go before a commission who overwhelmingly voted in favor of that stadium and reprimand them with one hand while extending the other for cash.

If Moss is for real about his support for diverting the cuts elsewhere, and if today's turn-out is any indication of the arts community's committment, then I think we have a pretty good chance of keeping this proposal as just that: a proposal.

But it requires playing the game. Go to the hearings, voice your support, tell your story, and leave the Marlins-bashing to us. 

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